Chiquita reached an agreement with the US Department of Justice concerning payments
made by “Banadex”, a former Chiquita-controlled society, to Colombian paramilitary
organisations. The deal is that Chiquita will pay a 25 million dollars fine in
five years, having voluntarily pleaded guilty of US law violation for having made
payments in the period 2001-2004 to entities affiliated with the organisation
“Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia” (Auc). This affair has been investigated by
the Department of Justice with complete cooperation by Chiquita, after the company
itself voluntarily reported the situation in 2003.
The evidence of the seriousness of the Colombian situation during the last decades,
with an internal war between reactionary paramilitaries (Auc) and revolutionary
guerrillas following Marxist principles (Colombia Revolutionary Armed Forces,
Farc, and National Liberation Army, Eln) that involves with no distinction civilians
and companies in a dirty blackmail and drug dealing game, is the Department of
Justice report mentioned by Prudenziati, in which we find the following revealing
sentence: “Castaño (Auc leader) filed a message in which it was clear, although
not explicitly stated, that failing to pay would result in physical injuries and
damages to Banadex personnel and properties”.
“Without explicitly reporting other situations – the Chiquita manager explains
– we must remember that many other foreign companies had to take extraordinary
measures to protect their own workers, including giving up to extortions, and
this because of the seriousness of threats against employees.
This situation forced the multinational to leave the country. “In 2004 – Paolo
Prudenziati continues – Chiquita sold its fields, with a significant loss, with
the aim to disentangle from this ethical and legal dilemma. The selling conditions
of these fields have been the result of a deal with the global Union of workers
in the food and bananas industry, Iuf and Coisiba”. Banacol purchased the fields
and accepted all the points in the deal imposed by Chiquita, that is to say to
maintain the collective agreement negotiated between Chiquita and the Sintrainagrom
Union, which will have to continue representing the workers, and to honour all
the food safety certifications obtained by Chiquita. “Conditions – the spokesman
wants to underline – that have been fully implemented by the new owners”.
“In some recent articles – the vice president of the multinational Southern
Europe area continues – the press improperly suggested that Chiquita was involved
in an illegal arms import conducted by the AUC group in 2001. This event has been
deeply investigated by the Colombian government and international authorities,
including Asp (American States Organisation) but no illegal conduct or misdeed
by the company or its employees has been found. A Banadex employee has been imprisoned
for a short time and then released and completely freed after a thorough inquiry
performed by the Colombian Attorney General. Eventually Bogotà government charged
four customs houses. Right after learning of the incident Chiquita and Banadex
voluntarily decided not to accept third party cargo ships. No legal authority
ordered or suggested this change”. Chiquita also reports that from that time until
the Banadex sale the company accepted only self-owned or self-managed cargo ships.
According to the documentation produced by Aso and Colombian Attorney General,
“there is no basis to these wrong statements”.